Good news! I no longer worry about a nuclear war. I now worry about this shit.

Good Writer

Chirbes says that walking around aimlessly, thinking about how you must write but you don’t know what or how to write is an inescapable part of writing.

By this measure, I’ve done hours and hours of writing this week. By every other measure, I’ve done no writing.

Father’s Love

My father was the mildest, gentlest man you can imagine. Never raised his voice. He was also disabled since childhood and couldn’t do any physical things. His fingers didn’t bend enough for him to close his fist. He never talked about it but everybody knew he was fragile. Of course, you have to understand, it’s me who’s saying he was disabled and fragile. My father never used these words and, I’m sure, didn’t see himself this way.

The only time I saw him get violent is when I was a little kid, and a bunch of teenage boys pushed me around on the playground. My father made them crawl on their knees, kiss my feet, and beg for forgiveness. I don’t know how he did it because these weren’t kids. These were young men who were clearly not disabled. But he was in such a rage that they didn’t stand a chance.

Easy Mistake to Make

A colleague who was at the meeting with the Dean yesterday stops me in the hallway.

“That stupid, motherfucking piece of shit bastard!” he exclaims.

“I’m with you, my friend,” I say. “It’s unconscionable what he’s doing.”

“The dictatorial, murderous, blood-soaked, Hitlerian piece of trash!” the colleague continues.

“OK,” I’m thinking. “That’s going a bit too far. No need to exaggerate the Dean’s faults.”

“Declaring martial law in Ukraine! What a monster!” the colleague continues, and I finally realize he’s talking about Putin.


I’m sure everybody in the US has already seen this article about an 11-year-old and her sex offender “drag mom” bit I’m posting a link for overseas readers. As an aunt to a 12-year-old girl, I’m shaken by this account of what is clearly child abuse.

I’m such an old woman that I remember when sexualization of children was considered a bad thing. And now it’s all cool and edgy.

Good Leadership

When my sister was trying to convince me to become Chair (she’s a professional recruiter and knows what jobs are meant for which people better than they do themselves), I told her that I can’t be in a leadership role if I have no disciplinary means at my disposal. Everybody has tenure. I can’t fire or punish them in any way if they don’t do the work.

“Ha!” said my sister. “What century were you born in? Disciplinarian management is outdated. These days good leadership is about inspiring people to do the work without any threats or punishments.”

That sentence spoke to me on such a deep level that I immediately agreed to become Chair. I discovered that my sister was right. As Chair, I began working closely with that Associate Dean I wrote about yesterday and found that simply observing his work ethic made me want to do better a lot more than any disciplinary threat ever could. I came out of every meeting with him energized and elated. Watching how elegantly he solved everything was pure joy.

If he were retiring, I’d say this all to him in person. But since he’s now a Vice-chancellor, it would sound like I’m brown-nosing. This is why I’m saying it here because otherwise I’d explode.

I have announced my retirement from the executive board of my professional association because our new president is the exact opposite of this Associate Dean. She’s about 30 years younger than he is but her leadership style is ancient. She wants to micromanage our every breath, treating us like suspicious characters who are constantly scheming to do bad things. As a result, people started resigning. Nobody wants some early-career untenured bit of fluff treating them like juvenile delinquents in a correctional facility.

You can’t force people to do a fantastic job. But you can do a great job yourself, and that will inspire them to do the best they can. Of course, in order to do that, you need to trust and respect people. You need to not assume the worst about them from the get-go.

Quote of the Day

The year before all this, Tiernan had come up with the idea of a group show of representations of urban spaces by disadvantaged youths. Richard and I had both leaped on it—the only way that could have been easier to publicize was if some of the disadvantaged youths were also Syrian refugees and ideally trans.

Tana French, The Witch Elm